Whether it contains straw, alfalfa or grass, with or without molasses, short chopped fibre or ‘chaff’ is a common feature in many feed buckets. In fact, recent market research showed that almost 85% of horse owner’s feed short chopped fibre which is perhaps no surprise given that it may have a number of health and welfare benefits to offer…
Feeding short chop fibre to extend eating time
Recent scientific research has shown that adding at least 15% chaff to meals can significantly increase eating time which helps to support digestive health and mental well-being. We all like to see our horse’s enjoying their feed but rapid intake of meals may lead to insufficient chewing, reduced saliva production and food passing through the digestive system too quickly which in turn, may lead to conditions such as choke and colic.
Saliva provides a natural buffer to stomach acid but unlike people, horses only produce saliva when they chew. Having evolved to spend around 16-18 hours per day foraging, horses have a psychological need to chew which means long periods without access forage can increase stress. With this mind, feeding short chopped fibre may be of added benefit for horses on restricted rations of forage.
If your horse is a poor doer, look for fibres high in oil to help maximise the amount of calories consumed in every mouthful!
Feeding short chopped fibre to replace compound feed
Short chopped fibres containing a full complement of added vitamins and minerals can be used as a full or partial replacement for mixes and cubes. This is a great way to increase fibre intake, reduce starch intake, extend eating time and provide a balanced diet with just one feed! Just like compound feeds, fibres with added vitamins and minerals need to be fed at the recommended amount in order to provide a balanced diet so make sure you weigh all feeds at least once to help ensure your feeding the right amount.
Feeding short chopped fibre to replace forage
For most horses, hay or haylage is the ideal way to top up or replace grazing but a forage replacer is essential for those with dental issues. Although not suitable for all horses and ponies (some will need a mash), short chop fibres may be the ideal solution, providing essential fibre whilst also helping to fulfill that all important need to chew. Provided they are low in starch and sugar, short chopped fibres are also ideal for laminitics if a low WSC (water soluble carbohydrate: simple sugars + frucatan) hay cannot be found.
For more advice on feeding short chopped fibre to your horse contact the SPILLERS Care-Line via 01908 226626 or helpline.horsecareUK@effem.com